Tigers weekly: Where has defense gone?

Tigers weekly: Where has defense gone?

Published Jun. 4, 2012 5:46 p.m. ET

If defense wins championships, the Detroit Tigers are

A look at the 2012 defensive statistics will show how bad the Tigers have been:
They've turned the fewest double plays in the majors and allowed the
second-most stolen bases in the American League. Advanced metrics show Detroit
battling with the Mets as the worst defensive team in baseball.

But one doesn’t need to be a firm believer in statistics to understand
Detroit's shortcomings. Watch a few games and see how many extra outs the
Tigers give the opposition by failing to turn what should be a routine double
play — by letting a slow grounder get through the infield or by failing to get
to catchable balls in the gap.

Every starting pitcher in baseball, even Justin Verlander, is going to have
trouble winning games when he consistently needs to get 30 or 31 outs.

Sunday, the Tigers even gave up the most embarrassing play in baseball - the
Little League Home Run, when a kid hits the ball, the defense boots it around
and the kid circles the bases for a "home run." That happens when you
have 8-year-olds on the field. It shouldn't happen to a team that is supposed
to be challenging for the AL pennant.

Trailing 3-1, Verlander was facing Robinson Cano with Curtis
Granderson on second in the fifth inning and two outs. Cano sliced a ball into
the right-center field gap. Tigers center fielder Quintin Berry didn't get a
great jump, preventing any chance of catching the ball, but he was able to grab
it on one bounce. He fielded the ball awkwardly, but Cano runs well so there
was very little chance of preventing a triple.

Still, Berry fired the ball to cut-off man Danny Worth, who needed to realize
that he had no chance of getting Cano and should have held the ball. Instead,
he whipped a meaningless throw to third.

The throw was poor - it didn't even reach third on the fly - but third baseman Miguel
Cabrera didn't get his body behind it. Instead, Cabrera tried an exaggerated
scoop, like he was still playing first base. He missed the ball completely, but
that still shouldn't have allowed Cano to score.

The final mistake was when a frustrated Verlander didn't get over in time to
back up third base. He tried to race for the ball, but couldn't stop it from
going into the Tigers dugout. Cano scored, and the Tigers trailed 5-1. Detroit
never threatened to rally, and the chance of winning a home series from the
Yankees was gone.

The Tigers knew they were going to be defensively challenged, but things have
gotten worse.

They are below average at every infield position, and the pitching staff's
inability to hold runners has let opposing teams steal bases at will. The one
outstanding defender, Austin Jackson, has been out with an injury, leaving
center field in the hands of Berry.

The rookie won the MLB Network's Play of the Month in May for his diving,
over-the-shoulder catch in Minnesota, but even that was a routine fly ball
until he misjudged it and had to recover.


Monday: RED SOX 7, Tigers 4. Jim Leyland and Gene Lamont were ejected for
arguing a blown call on a third strike and Doug Fister had his first bad outing
of the season.

Tuesday: RED SOX 6, Tigers 3. Verlander struggled early and often, with
the key hit being Daniel Nava's three-run double in the fourth inning.

Wednesday: RED SOX 6, Tigers 4. David Ortiz and Will Middlebrooks hit
two-run homers in the fourth inning, and the Detroit offense failed to pick up
the starting pitcher yet again.

Thursday: Tigers 7, RED SOX 3. The Tigers win with a rare showing of
speed; not just the two stolen bases by Berry, but another steal from Cabrera
and a stand-up triple from Prince Fielder.

Friday: Yankees 9, TIGERS 4. Granderson welcomes Casey Crosby to the big
leagues with a second-inning grand slam, which was more than enough for CC

Saturday: TIGERS 4, Yankees 3
. Utter chaos at Comerica. Cabrera hits two of
the longest homers in stadium history, both clearing the second level of
shrubbery in center field, but Jose Valverde blows the save in the top of the
ninth. Cue Omir Santos, who makes up for a miserable night in the field with a
walk-off sacrifice fly.

Sunday: Yankees 5, TIGERS 1. Verlander has his second rough start of the
week, and blames everyone from Magglio Ordonez to Santos and the home-plate
umpire. In the meantime, the Tigers can't do a thing with Phil Hughes.


He hit .355 with eight extra-base hits, but his week will be
remembered solely for the two massive homers he hit on Saturday night. The
first, estimated at 466 feet, hit halfway up the ivy on the center-field
fountain, and the second landed in the center-field camera well. Granderson,
who has spent more time than most in Comerica's center field, said that he had
never even seen balls hit there in batting practice.

Brayan Villarreal: Villarreal had three good outings out of the bullpen,
and now has an ERA of just 0.82 this season. He also earned the envy of his
fellow pitchers when Leyland announced the right-hander would be the emergency
outfielder if the short-handed Tigers ran out of healthy players.


Verlander: The Tigers ace was 0-2 with a 5.84 ERA. He yielded 19 hits
and 10 runs in two starts, and has lost three starts in a row for the first
time since 2008.

With Brandon Inge and Ryan Raburn gone, Worth has taken over as the
everyday second baseman. It hasn't gone well — he is struggling in the field
and hit just .211 this week with one extra-base hit.


Monday: No game.

Tuesday: Indians (Ubaldo Jimenez) at Tigers (Drew Smyly), 7:05 p.m. ET

: Indians (Jeanmar Gomez) at Tigers (Max Scherzer), 7:05 p.m.

Indians (Derek Lowe) at Tigers (Crosby), 1:05 p.m.

Friday: Tigers (Rick Porcello) at Reds (TBA), 7:10 p.m.

Saturday: Tigers (Verlander) at Reds (TBA) 4:10 p.m.

Tigers (Smyly) at Reds (TBA) 8:00 p.m.